Stop the Insanity! Why Our Family Started a Technology Diet
You rarely realize how far you have fallen down the rabbit hole until that moment you choose to look up. When you raise your head, you begin to see the reality of how deep you are and the seemingly overwhelming task of getting back to the top. But that is only if you choose. Many simply do not raise their heads or they accept their place in the rabbit hole.
This is what has happened to our family with technology. It was not anyone’s specific fault. Nor did we see it coming. Technology, in its various forms, simply showed up at our door and we let it into our lives. We did not put any thought into how to effectively and efficiently use this beast roaming through our house.
Technology is neither good nor evil. But how we choose to use the technology and allow it to interact in our lives can be very productive or destructive. When I looked around at our family and realized how consumed we are with technology, I knew we had to make a change. With three teenagers in the house, if I didn’t convey a different view of technology and how it can be used. I knew they would not hear this message anywhere else.
The Effects of Technology:
The effects of technology do not come on fast, it is more like a fog which slowly consumes every part of your life. I knew it was an issue in our house but did not realize the extent, as a whole, until uncovering some research for my next book. While I found numerous articles and studies around the negative effects of technology in our lives. The following are 5 major issues which resonated loudly when not using technology properly.
1. Cell phone use among teenagers is reported to induce the same stimulation as drugs or alcohol. But is an acceptable “addiction.”
2. A recent article showed people experience the same amount of stress when losing their cell phone as a terrorist attack.
3. According to Simon Sinek, technology is a source of unhappiness for much of the younger generations. “Young people are increasingly used to ‘filtering’ their lives and presenting only their best ‘self’ at the expense of reality.”
4. Too much time online is leading to stress, sleeping disorders, and depression.
5. We are becoming more and more distracted as a society with no indications of a turn around.
This is why we are starting a month-long technology diet. A month where we are more intentional with how we are using our phones, computers, video games, and televisions. Attempting to be more purposeful with how we are living life instead of our eyes glued to a screen. There are five specific reasons why we are committing to a technology diet:
We Didn’t Have a Plan
You probably don’t remember that specific moment when technology appeared in your life. You started using it because it was there. The issue is in the fact you have never taken the time to see the effect technology has on your life. If it is useful or how best you should be using technology. Like most people cell phones, and technology, in general have never had an implementation or usage plan to integrate into your life.
This is what happened to our family. We never put a specific plan together on how we were going to use technology.
This is one of the goals over the next 30 days, to create a Technology Thrival Guide. We are not at a point where we are getting rid of our technology, (not yet anyway) but we need to use it more responsibly. As a family, we need guidance to show us how we can best use technology to enhance our lives and not cause more distraction, stress, or anxiety. Be specific in what technology are we going to use, how will we best use it, and how can we recognize when it is becoming too much of a distraction. We make so many plans in our lives, yet with the one thing which consumes most of our time we have no plan for how to use it effectively.
Too Much Use
Simply put, we were on our phones too much. It became evident when I rented a movie for the family to watch one Friday night. Halfway through the movie I looked around and instead of watching the movie, everyone is doing some activity on their phones. With these devices constantly in our hands we have become too accustom to look at them for anything and everything.
It was at this point I started paying more attention to when we were on our phones. In the car, waiting in lines, sitting around the house, in their rooms. Unless they were told otherwise, their natural inclination was to be on their phone, regardless of what was happening around them. Through this technology diet the goal is for them to find other activities. So, when they go for their phone first they are thinking of other activities they might do instead. Thus, eliminating their constant usage or need to be on their phone.
We Are Too Distracted
I do not have any scientific evidence to this point. But it seemed the more my family, and society in general, was on their phones the more difficult it was to get them to concentrate and stay focused. The phone was a constant distraction. Attempting to have a conversation, getting them to complete a task or chore, or even finish their thoughts. These tasks almost seemed impossible because of the attachment and distraction of their phones.
This is an issue I am seeing with more and more individuals. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get keep anyone’s attention due to the distractions in our lives. With cell phones, games, Facebook, texting, SnapChat, Instagram, YouTube, and a host of other options. We have unlimited ways to keep out attention anywhere but the present moment. With teenagers in the house, this is not a great habit to create. They need to learn to be engaged in the moment and the conversation before them without the distraction of a cell phone.
An Unplugged Life
Our teenagers are one of the first generations to completely grow up in the digital age. They have been in the technology age for so long they don’t know what an unplugged life looks like. Or even how to experience an unplugged life.
We live in a mountain town in Colorado with only one road in and out of the valley. Last summer a construction crew severed the fiber optic cable which brings internet and phone service into our town. For several hours we had no internet, cell phone service, and few land lines. While the first emotion was panic, because we could not get any work done. After a few hours, and the realization there was nothing we could do about the situation, it became a very pleasant afternoon. Quite reminiscent of when I was a teenager and we were not tied to any technology.
Our kids need to experience this more often. To be bored, to be alright not knowing every answer with an immediate web search, or going to their phones for every activity. This is the other side, and it is not that bad. But since they can’t remember what it looks like there is initial fear. We need to show them life can be pretty great without technology in our hands, but let them experience it for themselves.
Build Better Habits
The constant use of cell phones and other technology has created some bad habits around our house. Watching Netflix or playing video games when bored. Constantly going to the cell phone as a first line of distractions. We have been blessed with very bright children and they are capable of engaging in other activities, if the distractions are removed.
The goal over the next 30 days is to create better habits. To not go to the phone first and have a list of other activities they can participate in when they feel the need to reach for their phone. My goal is that at the end of the 30 days they keep with the more positive habits they have built over this time.
The main goal is to ensure they are in control of their lives and nothing else is controlling their lives. To control their interruptions, distractions, and concentration. Life will be challenging enough without being chained to any technology. I want them to remember they are not defined by anything coming out of a box, but are strong, smart, and awesome individuals who are in control of their present and future.
In my next blog post I will outline the specific steps we took and what we hoped to accomplish with each step.
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